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Educational Alliance Program: Get OUTTA here by Devin Potratz

By: Novarah Kazmi

If you haven't heard, EAP renewal season is in full swing. So, login to and renew your application. You're just a step away from starting your next amazing project. Speaking of amazing projects, take a look at some of the great work done by students this year!

Devin Potratz, from Grossmont College, went above and beyond the standard Physics curriculum by earning STK's Master certification. Even more so, this past January, he presented his work “Get OUTTA here - simulating efficient rocket trajectories for solar system escape” at the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and in April, he presented this work at the Honors Transfer Council of California Annual Conference at UC Irvine. Using Astrogator, he showed the audience how you can compare timing, final speeds, and fuel consumption for three escape strategies for a spacecraft orbiting the Sun. Check out his video comparing each launch!

Read his abstract below to learn more, or check out his poster to see the full analysis!

1, 2, 3, escape! Using the Oberth effect for interplanetary and interstellar travel

by Devin Potratz (student) and Philip Blanco, Grossmont College

You have a spacecraft in a circular orbit around a central body (planet or Sun) that you want to send away on a (hyperbolic) escape path. Shortly after the dawn of the space age, Edelbaum (1959) showed that the spacecraft's asymptotic speed v_inf can be maximized (for a given amount of rocket fuel) by employing up to three separate impulse maneuvers, as opposed to expending all the fuel at once. This is due to the Oberth effect, which is distinct from the “gravity assist” that a planet can provide to a passing spacecraft. Here we use the software package Systems Tool Kit (STK) - freely available under an educational license - to simulate these maneuvers and animate the escape paths. This exercise can be used by students to demonstrate and appreciate the effects of orbital maneuvers on a spacecraft’s angular momentum, mechanical energy, and its resulting trajectory.
Posted: 6/25/2018 7:00:00 AM